Who we are
Legal Hackers is a global grassroots movement of designers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, policy advocates, researchers, students, teachers, and technologists who explore and develop creative solutions to issues at the intersection of law and technology. We are a volunteer-run, chapter-based community that is free to join and open to all. Legal Hackers is not a commercial enterprise, trade association, or advocacy group.
How we started
The Legal Hackers movement began in 2012 in Brooklyn, NY. It was there, in the wake of the SOPA/PIPA copyright debate, that several students in the Brooklyn Law Incubator & Policy (BLIP) Clinic and their professor, Jonathan Askin, sought to answer a nagging question: how can lawyers leverage the tools and collaborative, open ethos of the technology community to anticipate and solve law and policy problems? To answer this question, the students hosted the first ever “legal hackathon,” held at Brooklyn Law School in April 2012. Based on the success of the hackathon, the students and their friends formed a meetup called “NY Legal Hackers” to build a community in NYC focused on hacking the law.
Since then, the movement has grown quickly, from a second chapter in Washington, D.C. started by original New York Legal Hackers members, to new chapters spreading across the United States and then the world, to international summits that bring global chapter organizers together to discuss law, technology, and community building. Today, Legal Hackers chapters exist in over 50 cities on five continents, with new chapters launching all the time. Take a look at our Chapters page to see if there’s a group near you (and if there isn’t, start one!).
What we do
Legal Hackers promote “legal hacking”—i.e., the process of developing creative solutions to issues at the intersection of law and technology—and are inspired by the ethos of the original MIT hackers of the 1950s and 1960s. The output of legal hacking could be a tech-based solution (e.g., legal tech, reg tech, or civic tech), an improvement in legal services delivery, or a new way of addressing a public policy issue such as data protection, intellectual property, or the sharing economy. As Professor Askin put it back in 2012:
“The goal [of legal hacking] is to morph and evolve the law on one hand to better serve technologists, enterprises and society, but also harness technology so that lawyers can better service their clients.”
Our chapters host regular events in their local communities that bring together individuals to learn, share, and collaborate. Legal Hackers events can include:
- informal gatherings
- panel/keynote discussions
- demo nights
- design jams
Legal Hackers have built tools to help disaster victims, to improve web accessibility for people with disabilities, and to advance access to justice for low-income individuals. We’ve organized workshops teaching lawyers the basics of coding, data science, and design thinking, and have given entrepreneurs a platform to share their innovations. And we’ve hosted events on countless issues, including artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, criminal justice, crowdfunding, cybersecurity, data protection, drone policy, intellectual property, mindfulness, network neutrality, open data, the sharing economy, startup law, and many, many more.